It’s true, growing old is a luxury not afforded to everyone. It’s certainly not something most of us think about when we’re young, but the fact is, at some point, you need to plan for what happens when you, or your parents, do. Get old, that is.
Ideally, this plan will be based around you or your parents aging in place. After all, nobody works the majority of their life only to find themselves spending their golden years anywhere other than their own home. But what if that’s not an option? Have you thought about what you want if you’re not able to comfortably remain in your own home? Have you talked with your parents about their wishes should they find themselves unable to care for themselves safely?
These are conversations that should take place sooner, rather than later, and there are four major topics up for discussion.
Care Should Be Person Centered
When it comes to discussing living arrangements as you and your parents age, it’s important to consider the wishes of the individual you’re making a plan for. That would be you, or your parents. Talk about needs vs wants and keep in mind that nobody wants to feel like they have no say in their own care.
If you or your parents wish to stay home, then the plan should be centered on that. Perhaps your parents have already told you they want to retire in a community. Honor that to the best of your ability. In the event that someone is in poor health, see if you can rally together to keep them home as long as possible but also make sure you talk about nursing homes and assisted living options.
Whatever the plan is, don’t forget to consider if it’s feasible. Talk about finances. Balance physical and mental health needs with caregiver limits. And be flexible. This plan isn’t set in stone and we all know that, as we age, circumstances can change at the drop of a hat.
One of the biggest factors that come into play for planning those golden years is money. It’s an honest truth that money has a big influence on long-term decisions, so it’s imperative to get some things in order early in the game.
Some people invest well throughout the years and can comfortably retire. They have an adequate flow of income and can afford to bring in caretakers or move to a retirement community. Others do not and depending on the circumstances, care can get expensive fast.
You can’t rely on health insurance or Medicare to cover things either so it’s important to invest in long-term care insurance. Even if you never need it, you should have it. This type of insurance does exactly what it says it will and if your goal is to have quality care for the duration of your life, this isn’t something that should be overlooked.
Talk About Safety
First and foremost, no matter the wishes of the person being planned for, you must consider safety. Do you have a chronic health concern that requires care 24/7? Is your parents’ home free from potential dangers, like stairs? While the goal is to age in place, in the event that it’s not an option, have you done your research on nursing homes to make sure they meet safety standards? We all know that sometimes accidents happen, even in places that are supposed to be safe.
Another thing to consider is road safety. It isn’t a topic that comes up often as we age, but over time, our vision and mobility change. How will you address it with your parents or spouse if there comes a day when it’s not safe for them to drive? This might be difficult to discuss, but if you have a plan in place before it becomes a necessity, it will be much easier to take action later.
Know Everyone’s Limits
As ideal as it would be, not everyone can quit their job to care for a spouse or aging parent. In fact, most people will need to divvy up responsibilities for caring for an aging person and it’s important to know everyone’s limits.
Talk about who might be able to absorb some extra responsibilities. If there’s in-home care required, think about how that will be handled. Try to anticipate the needs and recruit as many people as possible to support the care plan, but be flexible and understanding. Knowing what can be managed within the family and what might need to be outsourced is an important talking piece.
Growing old doesn’t have to be stressful and planning ahead can alleviate some of the burden. When you know what you can or can’t afford, what a person needs or doesn’t need, and who can or cannot help, it can give much needed peace of mind.